Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Joplin and Marshfield Tornadoes

For the first month or two after the Joplin tornado, the affected area looked like a war zone in time of war. Now, after two and half months of debris removal, the affected area looks like a war zone after the war is over. For the first couple of months, the main impression I got upon driving through town was one of destruction. Now, the impression I get is one of desolation.
The Ozarks and the whole 4-State area, of course, has a long history of violent, tornadic weather. In April of 1880, for instance, a tornado virtually wiped Marshfield off the face of the map and killed over ninety people. In the number of people killed and certainly in the total amount of destruction, the Marshfield tornado did not rival the recent Joplin storm, but since Marshfield was a much smaller town, the 1880 storm at Marshfield destroyed a much larger portion of the town's buildings and killed a higher percentage of its people than did the Joplin tornado.
Although a sense of destruction and desolation is inevitable for those of us who drive through the affected area of Joplin on a daily basis, something else has made just as strong an impression on most of us as the images of ruin, and that is the outpouring of support that Joplin has received in the wake of the tornado.
Marshfield, too, received a lot of aid in the aftermath of its tornado. Help arrived from Springfield, for instance, within a matter of hours. In fact, Joplin was one of the communities that pitched in to help Marshfield back in the spring of 1880. Some citizens from Joplin, including notorious jayhawker Charles "Doc" Jennison, trekked to Marshfield to view the devastation for themselves in the days after the storm, then came back to Joplin and organized a local relief effort to benefit Marshfield, with Jennison leading the effort.
One other thing that the Joplin and Marshfield tornadoes have in common besides the widespread death and destruction and the outpouring of suppport afterward is the fact that in both instances the storm happened on a Sunday evening.


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